David Poulsen Recommends Ted Barris

Fire Canoe: Prairie Steamboat Days Revisited
by Ted Barris

Genre: Canadian History

Barris chronicles the history of the vessels that traversed the waters of the western Canadian plains by bringing to life the voices of those on board and on shore whose lives revolved around those prairie steamboats.

ted_barrisWhy I recommend this book: Painstakingly researched and compellingly written by one of Canada’s most important historians.

David Poulsen’s review of Fire Canoe:
Fire Canoe: Prairie Steamboat Days
Review by David A. Poulsen

Fire Canoe—Another Barris Literary Treasure

Ted Barris’s recently released Fire Canoe (Dundurn, Toronto) confirms once again the writer’s position as one of Canada’s pre-eminent purveyors of our nation’s history. In the tradition of Pierre Burton (and others), Barris once again combines exhaustive research, compelling story-telling with his clear love of this country’s stories to create a thoroughly readable look at the largely forgotten story of the steamboats of the Canadian prairie waterways.

Fire Canoe—the name came from the First Nations people, some of whom were terrified at the noise and sight of the wondrous vessels while others were employed to pilot them through often tricky waters. The ships themselves were the very definition of multi-taskers and their stories leap off the pages of Barris’s book. The vessels played important roles in war (The Riel Rebellion), in transporting the goods needed for a growing west , in dredging for gold at river’s bottom and in providing fun, not only for those who toiled on the ships but those on shore as well. But perhaps, most of all, the steamboats were home to a cast of characters–rascals, builders, villains and heroes and Barris, as he does so well, has them leaping off the pages and into our hearts.

One of those characters, Jimmy Soles (his father had rafted his family over six hundred miles from Medicine Hat to Prince Albert) eventually became part of the crew of the Hudson Bay Company’s stern-wheeler, the Saskatchewan.
“We danced at every place we stopped downriver—The Pas, Cumberland, Chemahawin, Cedar Lake—if we were going to be there overnight, we had
a dance. . . . The Indians called them fiddle dances,” mused Soles, who called
at all the dances “especially if I knew I didn’t have to get up ’til about noon
the next day. . . . Oh those square-dances. . . . The first trip I made with the Saskatchewan, we had a dance at Cumberland and there was an Indian fellow
playin’ the fiddle. He had a fiddle alright, and a willow bent with horse hair on it.
And he only could play the one tune, ‘Little Brown Jug.’ We danced to that all night.”

Ted Barris has become one of the most important and gifted chroniclers of Canada’s often fascinating and sadly, just-as-often forgotten past. Barris is doing all he can to remedy that unfortunate reality, and Fire Canoe is another feather in his well-decorated cap.

Links to purchase Ted’s book:
Dundurn Press

DavidPoulsen Guest reviewer’s latest title or project: Serpents Rising, Dundurn, October, 2014

David A. Poulsen has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations in Feb. 2014 and Oct. 2014.

David A. Poulsen – a new novel update


Serpents Rising
A Cullen and Cobb Mystery

David A. Poulsen

In 2005, journalist Adam Cullen’s wife, Donna, is killed by an arsonist. In desperation after police, fire department, and insurance investigators all give up trying to find the culprit, Cullen hires private detective Mike Cobb, but he, too, is stymied. Seven years later, Cobb re-enters Cullen’s life. A search for a crack-addicted teenage runaway is tangled up with Calgary’s most ruthless criminal organization — and a possible lead on Donna’s killer.
The parallel investigations take the two onto Calgary’s meanest streets, populated by a vicious biker gang, a silky-smooth pedophile, and an assortment of people who aren’t at all what they seem.

As they weave their way through long-buried secrets, Cullen and Cobb will come face-to-face with a cruelty they could never have expected … and a killer about to strike again.

David A. Poulsen has been a broadcaster, teacher, football coach, and actor. The author of more than 20 books, David spends time each year as a visiting author in schools across Canada. His young adult novel Numbers was awarded the Sakura Medal in Japan. He lives in the foothills west of Claresholm, Alberta.

Where to purchase David’s book:
Dundurn Press

David A. Poulsen was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in Feb. 2014.

David A. Poulsen

DavidPoulsen (2) David A. Poulsen

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Old Man — crossover Teen (YA) / Adult

Quick description: Nate Huffman has a five-point self-improvement plan for the summer that will not only make him smarter, stronger and better looking, but will almost guarantee him a shot at Jen Wertz.

But just as the long awaited summer vacation is about to arrive, Nate`s plans are unexpectedly shelved–for the most unlikely of reasons–the reappearance of his estranged father who ran off with a nineteen year-old dental hygienist when Nate was five. And not only is the old man back, he’s got this goofy idea about some road trip the two of them are going to take.

Nate finds himself heading off in a pickup with a sixty-two year-old man he can’t stand. But that’s just the beginning. Nate’s dad wants to reconnect with his son–and more than that he wants Nate to really know him, to understand him.

And the way Larry Huffman has chosen to make this happen is to take his son into his own past, a past that has as its centerpiece, the Vietnam War.

As the two eventually struggle their way through the jungle of the A Shau Valley, the old man relives the horror of the battle that changed him forever.

Nate undergoes changes of his own–at first a grudging acceptance of this man who has been a stranger in his life…and eventually something more–something that goes far beyond what either of them expected.


Brief biography:
David A. Poulsen’s writing career began in earnest when his story The Welcomin’ won the 1984 Alberta Culture Short Story Competition. Now the author of more than 20 books, many for middle readers and young adults, David is one of Canada’s most sought after guest author/presenters in schools. David’s teen/young adult novel Numbers was awarded the Sakura Medal (selected by English speaking high school students in Japan as their favourite novel of the year). David toured schools in Japan and Korea in October of 2011. He recently completed his Masters degree in Creative Writing at UBC and was the 2012-13 Writer in Residence at the Saskatoon Public Library.

Links to buy David’s book:
Amazon Worldwide – eBooks and print
Kobo – eBook

David’s promo links:
(I read this book in 2013 and wrote a review of it on Goodreads. smt)

What are you working on now?
I am working on the final edit for my first adult mystery, Serpents Rising, coming from Dundurn Books in the fall of 2014.

David’s reading recommendation:
I recently enjoyed a superb period mystery, The Alienist, by Caleb Carr.